Three Movies You May Have Missed

Bartleby

This independent film is a modern adaptation of Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Though written in the 19th century, Melville’s story has a 20th century flair, exploring the themes of human isolation and alienation in the workplace. Consequently, it translates well into the modern office setting, though one might wonder how a full-length film could be made from a short story such as this. The filmmakers, however, succeeded rather well. The movie is unusual, often interesting, and occasionally quite funny. Though hardly a masterpiece, it is a curiosity well worth viewing once.

Bringing Out the Dead

In Bringing Out the Dead, a paramedic, after failing to save the life of a girl, begins to see ghosts of the dead and to act in a peculiar manner at work (but then, all of his fellow medics have their own idiosyncrasies). He learns that you have to keep “the heart and body going until the mind recovers.”

Directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Nicholas Cage, this R-rated film boasts a little more depth than your average product of Hollywood. At times it can seem overdone or drawn out, but it offers the viewer true food for thought. The heaviness of the story is offset by its quirkiness. The movie is artistic without wandering astray into the world of incomprehensible artsiness. In a field full of formula films, it offers an experience that is quite different.

Conspiracy

Conspiracy is a sort of Twelve Angry Men with Nazis. That is a semi-accurate but perhaps inappropriately flippant way of referring to this disturbing drama, which depicts the conference at which Hitler’s “final solution” was put into motion. Fifteen government officials and SS commanders gather to discuss the new mandate in a meeting organized by Adolf Eichmann and dominated by Reinhard Heydrich. Conspiracy does not present the Nazis as cardboard cutout villains; instead, each character is nuanced and his motives are carefully developed.

The movie shows how unrestrained evil can emerge when the rule of law is discarded and how cowardly cogs in an indifferent bureaucracy can fail to resist it. The screenwriter and director are also able to show the audience how by focusing on a single ideal (the rule of law, the duty of a soldier, the injunction not to murder, etc.) a person is able to deceive himself with regard to the extent of his own evil.

The troubling thing about Conspiracy is that the characters are so well developed that their portraits actually inspire some degree of sympathy in the audience; because of this, we are reminded that evil has a human root. Fabulous performances are delivered by Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, and Colin Firth. Conspiracy was made for HBO and is Rated R for language.

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